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Coronavirus: Life Inside Our Senior Living Communities

To reduce the risks to the health and wellbeing of senior adults residing at our communities and minimize exposure to COVID-19, Buckner Retirement Services implemented a limited access visitation policy. However, we understand the concern and uncertainty the loved ones of our residents must be feeling.

We asked the leaders at our communities in Austin, Beaumont, Dallas, Houston, Longview and San Angelo to provide some insight into their residents’ wellbeing and what life is like as we work together to mitigate the risks associated with the coronavirus while continuing to inspire happiness in their lives.

What is the overall atmosphere like in the community? How is the morale of our senior adults?

“Our residents have been very positive about the steps we are taking to protect their health and safety. They have many questions, but they are valid concerns and questions that need consideration. We are taking the time to sit down and explain our measures on a one-to-one level as well as working to communicate to the whole community.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Most of our residents are understanding and supportive. Some are a bit apprehensive about the unusual circumstances, justifiably so, but we are doing everything possible to explain the reason for the changes and to ensure they are comfortable during the process. Overall, life within our walls is normal, as we are just trying to reduce the outside world coming in for now.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“We are keeping everything upbeat and positive with a business-as-usual attitude, and the overall attitude of our residents is positive as a result. Many residents and family members are expressing their appreciation for the professional way we are watching out for them during a difficult time.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

“Our Members have been extremely understanding and appreciative of our efforts to keep the community safe. Most of them are media savvy, and they are not surprised by the decisions we’ve made in light of the news. They are calm and feel safe, and many have said they would rather be at Ventana than their former homes.”

– Chuck Childress, Executive Director, Ventana by Buckner, Dallas

“There has been an overall welcoming and appreciative response to the measures put in place. Our residents understand that the protocols were put in place to keep them healthy and safe.”

–Tammy Combs, Life Enrichment Coordinator, Westminster Place, Longview

Are residents continuing to socialize within the community or are they staying in their rooms?

“I have not noticed a change in the atmosphere. Our residents are going about their social day per usual while our staff ensures every precaution is taken to keep our common areas clean.”

– Katherine Wojtyna, Marketing Assistant, Parkway Place, Houston

“Residents are finding a balance between practicing safe social distancing while also making sure to still talk and laugh with each other and with our team members.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

How are residents staying connected with their friends and family during the limited access visitation policy?

“We are working to set up some technology stations to help people connect with family and friends through social media and video calling platforms like FaceTime and Skype.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

“Many of the residents are updating family through text messages and others enjoy talking on their cell phones using the speakerphone. Some use Facebook and keep in touch by looking at pictures posted by family members. One resident has a USB picture frame, and her son sends her family photos to load on her frame. It runs constantly.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Telephone calls seem to be the preferred way residents are communicating with their family and friends, but some are also using FaceTime capabilities on their phones or tablets as well as sending emails and texts.”

– Erin Kelly, Director of Marketing, Baptist Retirement Community, San Angelo

Has there been any change to community activities or groups?

“As a precaution, we canceled any of the activities led by volunteers from outside the community as well as group outings off campus like a luncheon and a trip to the Houston Holocaust Museum. As of March 14, we’ve also suspended in-house group activities while ensuring our residents have an abundance of individual options to keep them engaged.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“We are working hard to keep life within the community as normal as possible, but for the safety of our residents, we have suspended our group activities and classes.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

Are the dining rooms and restaurants still operating normally? Are residents eating in the community areas?

“In order to mirror the policies implemented on a local, state and national level, our dining facilities are now delivering meals to our residents’ rooms.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Our dining team is hard at work to ensure residents have our full menu available to them in the comfort of their own rooms. It’s like a hotel.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“Even before we had to update our dining policy and close the dining rooms, we noticed a shift in the number of residents opting to have their meals delivered to their apartments. It’s good to see that we are all on the same page when it comes to ensuring their health and safety is the number one priority.”

–Tammy Combs, Life Enrichment Coordinator, Westminster Place, Longview

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed?

“Residents are communicating with staff and asking questions about protocols but staying calm and going about their usual business. The staff is here to answer all of their questions, and we are taking the time to be there for them and their families.”

– Katherine Wojtyna, Marketing Assistant, Parkway Place, Houston

“We are doing everything possible to increase our communication to residents and their family members so everyone is comfortable during an unusual time. This includes letters, emails, in-person discussions and townhall meetings.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“The most noticeable change is obviously the lack of outside people on our campus due to our limitation policy. We are also screening all approved visitors, staff and vendors, and we’ve closed our thrift shop. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for our residents as we all work together to protect the community.”

– Erin Kelly, Director of Marketing, Baptist Retirement Community, San Angelo

“The biggest changes are on the operations side of things with how our team has prepared. I’m not seeing much change with our Members, which is a sign we are doing our jobs well.”

– Chuck Childress, Executive Director, Ventana by Buckner, Dallas